- In practice, what happens is that the meditator is practicing, every aspect of his meditation is subtle, clear and bright, and then suddenly there is a sense of falling-into (knowledge of insight leading to emergence) and then the lights go out. There is a momentary sense of nothingness, and then the lights come on. If the meditator checks the watch, he realises some time has passed - depending on the strength of his concentration, this could be anything from a few minutes to a few days and he has "awoken" suddenly into a situation in which the practice is continuing, but the experience is much less subtle than before. The meditator is now in the knowledge of arising and passing away (udayabbaya-nana).
What happened? Has he fallen asleep? No, because of the suddenness and clarity of the beginning and end of the experience of unconsciousness, and because there has been absolutely no physical movement. What the meditator has experienced is the total cessation of the mind-body process. He did not "know" this while it was happening., because there was no sense of a mind to know it. [Emphasis added.]
Unfortunately, what Kearney is advocating here as the noble path and fruition of stream-entry is actually just a non-percipient attainment (asaññasamāpatti). A non-percipient attainment is a state devoid of perception entered by worldlings who mistakenly attempt to realize nibbāna by stopping perception and stopping the mind. In the Theravāda commentaries it is considered to be non-Buddhist, and dying while experiencing such a state is said to result in rebirth as a non-percipient, unconscious being (asaññasatta) without any functional mind or mental faculties. It is also considered to be an inappropriate and inopportune plane (akkhaṇa bhūmi), because there is no possibility of practicing dhamma either within the non-perceptive absorption or as a non-percipient being reborn in such a realm. Both as a practice and a saṃsāric realm it arrests any possibility for mental development (bhāvanā).
This mindless, unconscious path that Kearney is advocating does not represent the teachings of the Pāḷi Dhamma. The Pāḷi Tipiṭaka explicitly states that the noble path and fruition cognitions must include perception (saññā). Therefore this notion of the noble paths and fruitions being devoid of perception is not the Pāḷi dhamma. It is the teaching of a deficient vehicle (hīnayāna) which should be avoided.
All the best,